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Cursor  Member Reviews - Darkness V1.2

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
  Sun 28th Aug 2005
By David Whyld - See all my reviews

Darkness is a slight game set at a lighthouse where the resident workers all seem to have disappeared in mysterious circumstances. You, the local harbour master, have decided to head out there and take a look (without, alas, a radio with which to call for help if you get stucků)

Part of me liked the idea while another part of me felt that it wasn’t presented well enough. There could be the makings of a good game here but the majority of the text seems rushed as if the writer was so eager to get it finished he didn’t bother looking for spelling and grammatical errors.

The bulk of the game takes place in the lighthouse and as far as locations for games are concerned, this isn’t a particularly enthralling one. It’s just a set of not very interesting rooms all on top of one another. A little effort has been made to spice things up by having the player periodically hear someone approaching from behind, yet turning around and seeing nothing. At other times, you can hear someone talking and a hat which you rescue from the sea seems to have a mind of its own about where it actually moves to. The idea of someone else in the lighthouse following you around was a nice one but I felt it was done a little too much. At one point, the player seemed to be hearing someone behind him every couple of moves.

Errors hit in Darkness from the moment you examine the first item you see and get:

In is a wooden ladder which is attached to the jetty.

Typing "in" when you meant "it" isn’t a terrible error on its own but when the first item you try and examine has a buggy description, it’s not a good way to start the game. Unfortunately, it gets a lot worse later on.

One peculiarity of the game is its way of listing measurements in feet first of all then in metres (or sometimes millimetres) afterwards in brackets. I’m not quite sure what the point of this was (help for those who don’t understand measurements in feet perhaps) but it made for a jarring read at times. If I gave a damn about mimesis, I’d probably comment that it snapped it in half like a twig but I’ll leave the mimesis comments for the people who really care for them.

Despite taking place on an island surrounded by water, there’s no response given to one of the more obvious commands: "swim". There’s also a hat floating in the sea which remains there for as long as it takes you to fetch a boat hook and fish it out. Is this an island completely becalmed then? Or just one with incredibly an docile current around it? Strangely, you’re not able to jump into the sea and retrieve the hat.

Difficulty-wise it’s easier than the writer’s other games. I was able to figure quite a few of the puzzles out for myself and I seldom needed to resort to the hints. The hints system at least is competent and should point you in the right direction if you do get stuck.

As with the writer’s previous games, Darkness comes with a huge assortment of items, most of which you’ll probably never figure out a use for. One amusing thing I noticed is that there are several items which can be worn and there are no restrictions in place to prevent you wearing them all at the same time. So at one point I was wandering around the lighthouse, clambering up and down stairs, whilst wearing a sou’wester hat, a weatherproof coat, some weatherproof boots, some ear defenders, a hard hat, a lifejacket and a rucksack. I’m not sure whether the sou’wester hat was worn on top of the hard hat or the other way round but I bet I looked a bit of a state with all that clothing on.

A radio I found seemed to be either broken or so prone to bugs as to appear broken. Turning the dial increased the number the dial was on by 100, no matter what I turned it to. As the game’s intro tells you that you’ve already tried contacting the lighthouse via radio and received no response (hence you coming out here in the first place), I’m guessing the radio is broken but why the dial number is incremented in this fashion I couldn’t say.

I managed to get a few strange responses to what (as least as far as I was concerned) were reasonably sensible commands. "Fill can with petrol" hit me with "don’t be daft!" (why is that daft?) while "fill can" just got me "I don’t understand what you want me to do with the fuel can." By far the worse error was when I examined the torch and saw

It is your trusty, powerful, battery flashlight which is %state_torch% at the moment.

It’s hard to imagine how an error like that escaped even the most cursory testing but apparently it did. Then again, judging by how the rest of the game seems afflicted with so many errors it’s quite likely that testing is one thing Darkness wasn’t subjected to. At best, I suspect the game was played through to completion just to ensure it could be completed and then was uploaded without further testing.

I wonder if Richard Otter is writing too many games too quickly. He’s now produced three full size games in less than four months (not counting the mini-game he wrote for the last ADRIFT comp). The first - Ticket To No Where - was quite good; the second - Where Are My Keys? (see issue 1 for review) - was patchy in places and contained entirely too many errors but was still a likeable enough game in its own right; the third - this game, Darkness - is his weakest effort yet and seems to run into problems from the word go, a good number of which I’m guessing are down to how quickly he’s writing them and not enough time and effort being expended on catching errors. Each game he writes seems smaller and buggier than the last. Too much, too soon? It’s a worrying progression whatever way you look at it.

In the end, I felt that Darkness was a wasted opportunity. With a lot more effort and some time spent on a decent spell-checker, it could be improved considerably.

3 out of 10

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